Introduction mapping Asian Christianity in the context of world Christianity

David M. Thompson

The time has long since gone when Asian Christianity could be regarded as simply a development of what happened in Europe. The twenty-first century is much more aware than perhaps the twentieth of the fact that Asian Christianity is either as old as or older than European Christianity. Quite apart from the fact that the Holy Land is part of Asia, there is now greater appreciation of the fact that Christianity spread east as rapidly as it did west, reaching India probably in the first century and China by the sixth or seventh. That is roughly contemporaneous with the second conversion of the British Isles (the first being before the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain). The distinctive context of Asia has been that Christianity has always existed alongside other major world faiths and religious traditions.

Nevertheless the legacy of western imperialism and its relationship to the missionary activities of European and North American churches has also been significant in shaping the current situation. This Introduction considers the significance of the difference between the way in which theology is tackled in the academic context as distinct from the church context, and reflects on the way in which theology has been differently perceived in different regions of the world at different times.

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